Travel and tourism is a passion of mine. Everywhere I have been, I associate with the most unforgettable and enriching memories. Whether it be locations around my home country of the United States to England, Germany, Czech Republic, France, Switzerland. I've even been fortunate enough to spend an entire summer in Italy! So you could say I’ve been a travel junkie for some time, even though I still feel that it really is just the tip of the iceberg. There’s so much out there in the world to see and the majority of us have barely scratched the surface!
My love for traveling inspired me to learn everything I possibly could about it through my professional education. Throughout my experiences, I have completed my degree in tourism and hospitality and am currently earning my certified travel agent license.
Traveling really is the best way to learn more about yourself and about the world. Every single trip I go on, I always learn something new. No matter how much or how little experience you have with travel, it is always a rewarding and memorable experience.
1. Make your luggage stand out
You’ll be glad you did when you’re looking at the sea of identical suitcases and duffel bags going around the carousel. I like getting suitcases with fun patterns or bright colors, personally. However, when I am making use of a standard model with no recognizable characteristics, I like to add a ribbon, stickers (if it's a hard shell), colorful duct tape, or a unique looking luggage tag.
2. Book through hotels directly
I like to stay away from third party booking sites such as Expedia, Priceline, Hotwire, etc. Their pricing “deals” tend to all be smoke and mirrors of marketing ploys anyways. Most of the time they are prepaid, non-refundable and are full of hidden fees and booking costs that they hope you don’t notice (and many don’t).
Third party booking sites can work well in a pinch if you happen to be driving overnight somewhere and just need a nearby hotel to stop at to sleep. I never recommend using them for planned trips that are months out. Booking hotels through their actual website (or via phone) is going to be more flexible for cancellations, they’re able to occasionally provide free upgrades, and throw in extra amenities. Not to mention an overall better customer service experience.
3. Scan important documents to your email address ahead of time
I highly recommend doing this to have electronic access to your itinerary, passport, identification, travel visas, flight and hotel information, and anything else you think you might need. You never know when it might come in handy.
4. Pack your patience
Traveling rarely goes exactly as expected, and its okay. There’s almost always a couple of bumps in the road somewhere. They say traveling is about the journey, not the destination for a reason. It’s all about how you handle yourself. So just relax, don’t feel the need to rush things or get worked up. Things will work out in the end!
5. Check out the local tourism office/association
Want to be a super savvy traveler? Use this tip.
Before I go anywhere, I always head over to the website of the city’s local tourism office. There you can find all the information of special events going on during your stay or free activities to do. I find these can help me to have a much more unique experience in the places I visit. If you happen to go to their office in person, you can actually get extra discounts on attractions, transportation, you name it! It is literally their job to make sure people can get everything they can out of that destination. So many travelers don’t do this, its crazy! Trust me, don’t skip out on this!
6. Bring a power strip
Not just for college dorm rooms! After traveling with groups on several occasions AND sharing one apartment with 12 other girls in Florence, this one is a no brainer for me. These really come in handy when you have several electronics you need to charge in your room.
7. Say yes to more things
This is the main way I was able to discover so much more about myself, meet new people, have unique experiences, and make lasting memories! I strongly encourage stepping outside of your comfort zone at least once every trip you go on. I’ve never regretted saying yes to spontaneous adventures, random invitations, and trying all kinds of new things. Obviously use with discretion and don’t do anything unsafe! But also, don’t always just stick to things you are familiar with.
8. Wander Aimlessly
To piggyback off that last tip, don't be afraid of getting lose (on purpose). Meaning don't rely on google maps all the time and just wander. Try to navigate around a couple blocks with no guide, see where it takes you. Getting purposefully lost in a new city is one of the most exciting and underrated ways to create wonderful memories, and the best stories! Try it once and you'll get it, its one of the best feelings!
9. When going out and about, bring only what you need
I've found, its always been a good rule of thumb to have about $30-50 USD and one credit/debit card on me whenever I step outside of my hotel room. Leave most of your cash and other valuables locked up in a safe place.
Side note: please do not be one of those people who wear money belts. Thieves do exist and are sneaky enough to quickly grab some of your cash before you even know it. I once overheard a man at my Berlin hotel lobby who unfortunately had this happen to him. Be very mindful of your surroundings!
10. Use an incognito window to book your flights
Okay this may sound odd, but it actually works! Those flight accommodation websites can be tricky and definitely do not have your best interest in mind when it comes to prices. Using an incognito browser window is the way to go. Try it out! You just might see a dip in the flight costs.
Heres how to go incognito:
11. Book flights around 3-4 months in advance
In my experience, this seems to be the sweet spot for the best prices. The whole “only book your flights on Tuesdays” thing seems to just be a travel myth. I’ve tried it, nothing much to report. So I wouldn’t worry too much about the day of the week you book on. Three months, four months, or even five are when I see the best prices. My husband and I have even been able to snag some 1st class tickets a couple times for an absolute steal!
12. Try not to eat near big tourist attractions
You’ll find you’ll get a better experience, and better price point, by avoiding the obvious tourist trap restaurants directly next to famous landmarks and attractions. For example, I found the best little English pub for lunch in London by starting in Trafalgar Square (super touristy), and then wandering about 6 or 7 blocks away. It was somewhat of a hole in the wall and had the coolest decor! We were able to get a table for our whole group with no wait. Oh, and the food was incredible!
13. Don't fret over not having wifi
Yes social media is great and all that, in moderation of course. However, if you find yourself in a situation with no wifi or access to any internet source, use it as an opportunity to enjoy the moment! Admire the view, read a book, relax on the beach or on a balcony or rooftop, go for a walk, contemplate life, play a game with one of your travel buddies. One time me and my group actually started a game in our hotel lobby and got more people to join (I’m talking like 30 people total playing this game, maybe more). So much fun! I did this all the time in my dorm common room as well. Some of the best travel memories I have, I didn’t even document because I was just so caught up in the moment!
14. Don't hesitate to ask for a hotel room upgrade at check in
Hotels can have some flexibility when it comes to assigning room upgrades at check in. Often times they are able to accommodate your request depending on their availability. It doesn’t hurt to ask, obviously just be super nice and understanding! Coming from someone who has worked in the hotel industry, I always tried to go above and beyond when possible. I loved being able to help out some friends that were on a fun girls’ getaway or a sweet couple on their honeymoon!
15. Visit the landmarks and "touristy" destinations during lunch time
Obviously when you visit certain places, there are things you just HAVE to see! Like the Empire State building in NYC, Golden Gate bridge in San Francisco, Big Ben in London, you get the idea. I strongly advise you try going against the grain and visit the popular landmarks at prime lunch hours, when all of the other tourists are eating. That way you get a better chance of having the local hotspots to yourself and get the best photo opportunities without crowds of people. Then you can eat your lunch at a less busy time as well, so its basically win-win for you!
Now, the “prime lunch hours” do vary depending what country you are in of course, so just ask your travel agent about this when you book!
P.S. the second least busy time to do this typically is early morning
16. Try staying in a hostel
I understand, hostels are not necessarily for everyone. So absolutely do your own research to see if it would be a good fit for you and your group. However, they can be a lot of fun and offer a really unique experience. They are cheaper than hotels so thats a plus, and they are also extremely social and coordinate events often so it is a great opportunity to meet people! Of course, not all hostels are created equal so a travel agent would be happy to find the best one for you.
17. Always bring a jacket
Doesn’t matter where you are going or what time of year it is. Early mornings and evenings can be chilly sometimes, so definitely pack some layers to wear when needed!
18. Don't over plan
Coming from someone who loves to plan and coordinate everything down to the tiniest detail! But no matter what, I always remind myself to leave a little wiggle room. After all, I did say my best travel memories were from the more spontaneous moments and it is so true. Sometimes it is so refreshing to just take a breath and allow an afternoon to let your experience unfold naturally. It takes the stress out of your day and lets your vacation actually feel like a vacation!
19. Invest in travel insurance before you leave
LOTS of people skip out on this and I completely get it because it is one more expense to tack on after everything else you have planned. That said, it is so useful if worst case scenarios happen like accommodations being canceled, you get sick or injured, or have something of yours get stolen. I’ve heard some horror stories and from now on it’s something I won’t travel without, especially traveling overseas. I highly recommend looking into Allianz or World Nomads.
20. Respect the locals
I cannot stress this enough. Be very mindful of the fact that you are in their home. So be sure to treat the people and all public areas with kindness and respect. In my experience, locals are always willing to help tourists out, even with a language barrier, as long as you are polite. Plus, talking to them makes for some great conversation and amazing recommendations. I mean who knows the area better than the people who live there?
I hope you enjoyed reading this post and found it relatable and helpful. It was so much fun for me to write! If any of these tips sparked a memory of yours, feel free to share it with me. I’d love to know more about your travel experiences!